The best of the decade: The top ten movies of the 2000s

10) Gladiator (2000)
Director Ridley Scott takes the dead swords-and-sandals genre and gives it a new life with the Oscar-winning tale about a Roman general who is forced to fight his way as a gladiator in order to kill a corrupt prince who ordered the murder of his family. The films’ recreation of ancient Rome is unique and splendid as it captures the greatness of the Roman Empire thanks to CGI and great production design. The cinematography of Gladiator works great with the brutal and gory fight scenes because it looks as though the audience is actually witnessing a battle to the death between several fighting warriors. After being in several brilliant but underrated roles in such films as L.A. Confidential and The Insider, Russell Crowe establishes his position as an A-list movie star with his raw and powerful performance as Maximus, who asks the question, “Are you not entertained?”Apparently Mr. Crowe, they were very entertained.

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9) There Will Be Blood (2007)
There Will Be Blood is director Paul Thomas Anderson’s masterpiece which tells an epic story about a turn-of-the-century prospector who strikes oil while looking for gold and begins a ruthless quest for wealth during Southern California’s oil boom in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Daniel Day-Lewis’s performance as Daniel Plainview is truly haunting and memorable with his an over-the-top delivery of such dialogue as “I drink your milkshake”. Johnny Greenwood of Radiohead creates the film’s haunting score that enhances the dark and menacing tone of the movie. Robert Elswit’s cinematography beautifully captures the essence of the environment and the tension between the characters.

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8) Sin City (2005)
Collaborating and with legendary comic book artist Frank Miller, Robert Rodriguez takes film-noir to whole different level with his adaptation of Miller’s graphic novels called Sin City. Featuring an all-star that includes Bruce Willis, Oscar-nominee Mickey Rourke and Oscar-winner Benicio Del Toro, the film tells the story of three different people caught up in the violent corruption of the dark and shady town known as Basin City. Using Miller’s graphic novels as storyboards, Rodriguez brings life to Miller’s creation thanks to make-up effects from Greg Nicotero that makes the characters in the film look real despite some of their cartoonish facial features. The women featured in Sin City is nothing to scoff at because they make the film visually attractive whether it is Jessica Alba strutting her stuff with a bull rope, Carla Gugino’s first appearance in the film where she is topless or Devon Akoi kicking butt and taking names with her trusty katana.

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7) Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Director Quentin Tarantino’s sixth film is set in Nazi-occupied France where a soldier by the name of Lt. Aldo Raines (Brad Pitt) hires several Jewish soldiers (aka THE BASTERDS) to eliminate any Nazis that get in their way and scalping their heads. Meanwhile, a Jewish woman (Melanie Laurnet) puts in motion a plan that will avenge the death of her family at the hands of “Jew Hunter”, Col. Hans Landa (Christoph Waltz). Tarantino uses his dialogue for humor and dramatic purposes, the same elements that made Pulp Fiction such a great screenplay and a masterpiece. This film is Tarantino’s most suspenseful film as he knows just how long to draw out a scene by building up suspense and cranking up the immense tension among characters in a scene that would make Alfred Hitchcock proud. Inglourious Basterds also manages to do what no other filmmaker has done before: by creating an alternate reality where Hitler can put in a position where he could be assassinated on the silver screen and actually doing it. The sensational performance of Christoph Waltz as the ultimate Nazi villain is one of the many highlights of the film. His character creates the most tension in the film because he manages to be charming, yet loathsome and hateful at the same time.

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6) The Lord of the Rings: Fellowship of the Ring (2001), The Two Towers (2002) and The Return of the King (2003)
The only attempt that Hollywood adapted J.R.R. Tolkien’s epic fantasy novels before the live-action films was in the form of a 1978 animation film that compressed all three novels in the span of 132 minutes. A decade later, director Peter Jackson made his name as part of Hollywood’s elite directors with the live-action adaptation of the novels that were filmed back-to-back-to-back in Jackson’s native New Zealand and released one year after the other around the holidays. With the visual and makeup effects to create the fantasy world of Middle Earth, the film also featured an outstanding ensemble that include Eiljah Wood as Frodo, Oscar-nominee Ian McKellen as Gandalf and Oscar-nominee Viggo Mortensen as Aragon. All the awards and money ($1.1 billion to be exact) the last film has gathered has cemented the trilogy’s reputation as one of the all-time great franchises with an upcoming adaptation of The Hobbit, which will be directed by another visionary director, Guillermo del Toro.

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5) Shaun of the Dead (2004)
Being the first zombie comedy movie to infuse romantic elements, Shaun of the Dead is about a slacker named Shaun (Simon Pegg) who decides to win back the trust of his girlfriend and family on the day where the dead to rise from the grave and run rampant in London. While this film has tons of laughs and gore, it also has a commentary on social life by showing in the movie’s opening sequence that people overall act like zombie in ordinary life before the outbreak began. Shaun of the Dead is director Edgar Wright’s feature-film debut that pays homage to his love of zombie movies, especially George A. Romero’s films. The store that Shaun works in (Foree Electronics) was named after one of the stars from the original Dawn of the Dead, Ken Foree. There are several memorable and hilarious moments throughout the film, especially one scene where Shaun and his friends are attacking a zombie with pool cues at a local bar to the tune of Queen’s “Don’t Stop Me Now” and telling one of his friends to “Kill the Queen”.

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4) Kill Bill Vol. 1 and 2 (2003-2004)
The first Quentin Tarantino film of the 21st Century is a tale of revenge wrapped in homage to Tarantino’s love for kung-fu, samurai and western films of the past. Left for dead and gunned down by her former boss and colleagues of the Deadly Viper Assassination Squad, Beatrix Kiddo (Uma Thurman) wakes up from a four-year coma with a thirst for blood-soaked revenge. Tarantino’s love for kung-fu and samurai films also came in the form of the casting of key roles in the film that included Sonny Chiba of The Street Fighter films as master swordsman Hattori Hanzo and the late David Carradine of the TV series Kung Fu fame as the boss and main target that the Bride had dead in her sight. One memorable scene in Vol. 2 that combines Tarantino’s love for comic books and his well-written, rich dialogue is when Bill (Carradine) tells Kiddo the mythology of Superman by explaining that Superman’s alter ego is Clark Kent and not the other way around.

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3) No Country for Old Men (2007)
Set in the 1980s, the Coen Brothers’ adaptation of Cormac McCarthy’s 2003 novel is a story about a former Vietnam Vet-turned-hunter stumbles upon a botched drug deal where he takes a suitcase containing $2 million. This one greedy action begins a deadly domino effect with a high body count and where there are no clean getaways. Everyone in the cast has delivered tremendous performances from Tommy Lee Jones, Josh Brolin, Kelly Macdonald and the Oscar-winning performance of Javier Bardem as Anton Chigurh. No Country for Old Men explores themes such as fate and consequences that was explored in the Coen Brothers’ earlier film, Fargo. The film creates a good companion piece to the novel because most of the dialogue from the book was translated verbatim to the movie. What also makes this movie fascinating is that the film does not have any musical score whatsoever.

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2) The Departed (2006)
After being nominated for five Academy Awards over a period of 25 years, director Martin Scorsese finally got the little golden statue for helming the modern mobster film, The Departed. Featuring an all-star cast that includes Oscar-nominees Leonard DiCaprio, Matt Damon, Jack Nicholson and Mark Whalberg, the film is about two men from opposites of the law that are undercover within the Irish mob and the Massachusetts State Police. Their eventual task is to identify one another before they are arrested or killed. As the climax approaches, the film eventually turns into a deadly game of last man standing with bullets and blood to spare. The performances from the cast are first-rate with DiCaprio delivering an outstanding performance as an undercover cop and Nicholson creating his most colorful villain since his role as the Joker. The cinematography for The Departed is morbid and brooding, as it captures the city of Boston in unique way. William Monahan’s screenplay contains memorable dialogue as well as tons of explicit language that would shame Casino and Goodfellas.

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1) The Dark Knight (2008)
The Dark Knight has become the epitome of the comic-book movie by not only succeeding as an outstanding film, but a justifiable crime thriller that could be compared to Michael Mann’s masterpiece, Heat. Filmmaker Christopher Nolan takes all of the elements of the Batman comic book world and set in reality as if the characters and Gotham City were real. The film explores the literal themes of good and evil. Throughout the movie, evil often triumphs over good with Batman often failing to stop and prevent the Joker’s murder spree involving prominent political figures in Gotham City. Wally Pfister’s cinematography for The Dark Knight created a distinct and unique look to film, especially the scenes that were shot in IMAX. Christian Bale is the ultimate incarnation of the Batman that the silver screen has seen as he manages to take his Batman character to new heights of darkness and sadness. However, Heath Ledger really makes the movie enjoyable with his legendary performance as the best incarnation of the Joker character on the silver screen.

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